1. Typos, Misspellings, Poor Grammar, Improper Punctuation, Inconsistent Formatting.
Proofread…Proofread…Proofread! If you claim to be detail-oriented, don’t shoot yourself in the foot. Spell checkers and grammar checkers don’t catch everything. Have you checked all the commas, periods, and em-dashes? Is the spacing between lines and paragraphs consistent? Did you use one or two spaces at the end of sentences? Are bullets sized properly? Have you overused formatting emphasis like bold, italics, or underline? Your job search documents must be perfect—they reflect your professionalism.
2. Using a one-size-fits-all template.
Yes, that template in Microsoft Word is quick and easy, but everyone else thinks so, too. If the truth be told, that Word template doesn’t produce a very good resume anyway. A top quality, focused resume that will leap from the application pile takes time, work, expertise, and creativity. If you are serious about advancing your career or landing that next job quickly, make the investment!
3. Writing a Career Obituary instead of a Marketing Piece that will attract attention.
Use the AIDA principle from advertising: your job search documents must attract Attention, generate Interest, create Desire, and call the employer to Action. If your resume is full of Duties included and Responsible for it starts to read like Here lies so and so. Don’t just tell an employer what you did—sell them on what you can do for their company.
4. No clear focus.
Don’t make the hiring manager figure out where you might fit into the organization—they will probably never read that far! Position your unique selling points at the visual center of the page. Show them up front the type of work you want, your areas of expertise, your strengths, and what you can do for them.
5. Writing objectives from your perspective not the employer’s.
Of course you want a challenging job with a progressive company where you can use your skills, get paid well, work short hours, etc. Did you really want a boring job with a stagnant company, where you won’t use your skills, and you’ll work long hours for low pay? The employer DOES NOT CARE what you want. What do they care about? Finding the right person for the job they need to fill. Show the employer why you are just the person they are looking for.
6. Simply listing job descriptions without highlighting your accomplishments.
Listing that you were the account executive for the western region is fine, but it’s not enough. What were the measurable, verifiable results you achieved? Why do you stand out among your peers? Why should they hire you instead of another account executive? Employers want to hire people who can accomplish their objectives—to make money, save money, attract new business, design, streamline processes, resolve problems, lead, innovate, improve communications, relieve burdens, etc.
7. Using an inappropriate resume format.Poorly organizing/presenting information.There are advantages and disadvantages to every resume format. Should you use a Chronological, Functional, Combination, CV, or some other format? Which format do hiring managers prefer? What if your work history or education is less than perfect? How can you present your credentials and experience honestly AND to your best advantage?
8. Creating a resume with no visual impact.
For your resume to stand out in the crowd it must also be visually interesting, readable, and quickly skimmed. Initially your resume may only get 10-15 seconds of consideration before it is kept or tossed. How can you make that first cut? Place critical information at the visual center of the page—give the short answer to the question Why should we hire you?
Your overall design should be pleasing, perhaps creative. Use an easy-to-read font in 11 point type or larger. Headings should be 2 points larger than the body text. Leave sufficient white space on the page. Line lengths and paragraph sizes should not be too long. Leave margins of approximately 1 inch all around. Use graphic lines to set off important sections of the resume, such as the profile section. Develop a look and feel for your document that is appropriate for your industry and position.
9. Including irrelevant or potentially prejudicial information.
Your resume should not present any information that is not directly relevant to the position you seek. While it may be terribly interesting that you ride motorcycles, knit doggie sweaters, and campaign door to door for the Communist party, the employer looking for a top-notch accountant either doesn’t care (best case) or will eliminate you because she hates knitting (worst case). For legal reasons you should not list your age, marital status, number of children, religious preferences, sexual orientation, height, weight, etc.
10. Listing inaccurate, misleading, inflated information.
Writing fluff or meaningless filler.Never, never, never lie! Present your credentials and experience honestly and accurately. Do not claim full credit for work that was a team effort. Provide accurate, verifiable numbers—if you increased revenues by 46% don’t round it to 50%. (The 46% is even more believable). If you did not complete the degree, don’t list a B.A. (there are positive, accurate ways to present incomplete college work). If you say that you are a team player with great communication and people skills, back it up with specific examples. Lofty claims, particularly of personality traits, will be met with skepticism if you don’t demonstrate how you used this trait or skill to produce positive business results.